A History of the Crawford United Methodist Church


Frances Hardwick Hairston



History of the Crawford United Methodist Church





            In around 1984 or 1985, I had the ambitious idea to write a history of the Crawford Church. I went to the archives at the Mississippi State University Library; browsed through the old deed books in the Chancery Clerk’s office in Columbus; and contacted various people who had been involved with the church and asked them to write down things they could remember about the church. Many people did respond, and because of them, we have invaluable information. Laura May Hairston Cotton, Margaret Nance Hartman, Mamie DeVane Ledbetter, Archie Nichols, Mary Alice Hairston Gibson, Merrill Gentry, Beatrice Gentry, Christine Ledbetter Vaughan, Mary Hannah Christopher Tucker, and Carolyn Moorhead Henderson all told stories, but they are all now deceased. Peggy Gentry Phillips, Shirley Gentry Brown, Jewel Bell Holcomb, Lois Dean Bell Eaves, Mary Jo Atkins, Johnny Gentry, Alice Hairston Edwards, Kay Meadows all gave pictures and oral information.

            The church records were stolen in the 1960’s when furniture was stolen from the old parsonage. The records had always been stored in the seat part of the hall tree. (A large piece of furniture used as a coat hanger but also includes a large lift up seat for storage). The thief, certainly oblivious to the more important treasure for the church, took the hall tree, records and all. I was determined to find some kind of information or someone who had knowledge of a record. One contact leads to another contact. Finally, Sarah Frances Cox Husband, a noted Lowndes County historian, led me to Olin and J.L. Looney who were members of Shaeffer’s Chapel. They are both now deceased.

            Olin Looney had previously done extensive work on the history of Shaeffer’s Chapel. Since Shaeffer’s Chapel and Crawford were in the same district, the Quarterly Conference records were the same. Because of these two Looney Brothers, we now have records dating from the 1830’s until 1928. Jewel Bell Holcomb will fill in these missing years from accounts we have of past Sunday School accounts.

            Around 1985, my house burned. Miraculously, these records were not burned, though somewhat water damaged. I put out of my mind the thought of pursuing this project any further until Jewel, who is as tenacious as a bulldog called me in August and said the Lord had been telling her we needed to write a history of the church. I was in school at MUW working on an art degree and had just begun the fall semester. I had two weeks to get this history together for the Crawford Church Homecoming.


History of the Crawford United Methodist Church

Crawford, Mississippi


          “Nothing is really ended until it is forgotten.” With that statement clearly in your minds, I present to you a rendering of the past so that those who have put so much into the work and building of this church with the help of the Holy Spirit will not be forgotten. As Morgan Freeman says, “Having places that give us roots is essential to our spirit and souls.”

          This church has a colorful beginning. Go back in time and think about a time before 1832. The Choctaw Indian Nation owned the land in this area, over a million acres. As a part of the Black Prairie, there was much grassland. There were many trees including Post Oaks and Bois d’Arc (Osage Orange). Settlers had begun to move into Columbus, but the area west of the Tombigbee River was not open to settlement until 1832 even though Mississippi became a state in 1817.

          In 1832 the United States Government signed a treaty with the Choctaw Indians at Dancing Rabbit Creek near Mashuaville in Noxubee County, Mississippi. Greenwood Leflore was the Choctaw chief. The Dancing Rabbit Creek Treaty opened vast areas for settlement by the Americans. And, settle they did! The people who came were a part of the great migration moving from the eastern seaboard into the fertile valleys of the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers. This migration continued well into the mid 1800’s. People left the east coast for a variety of reasons: the spirit of adventure; lands in Virginia and the Carolinas had grown thin with the over planting of tobacco; large families did not provide enough land for their sons; and some large land owners wanted to move their large accumulation of slaves into the newly opened lands.

          Among those early settlers were Grey and Celia Ledbetter who settled approximately three miles east of Crawford. Moving to this area with them were the Randles and Johnsons. John M. Ledbetter, 1802-1887, a son of Grey and Celia, married Eliza White. He was influential in the building and development of the Crawford Church and was listed for many years as a trustee of the church. His son, John McGee Ledbetter, May 22, 1846- May 8, 1943, was married to Margaret Randle. As superintendent of the Sunday Schools and supervisor of district 4 in Lowndes County for 30 years, he was and influential figure in the community.

          Lands sold rapidly. There was a demand for short staple cotton. The Industrial Revolution in the early nineteenth century created a demand for cotton. The Black Prairie provided fertile land and large portions of land. Robert Hairston back in Virginia saw this as an opportunity to bring slaves so that he would not need to sell them and break up families. It was also an opportunity to have more land for cotton. He was soon followed by his brother Hardin and family. They settled east of Crawford around the Trinity area and helped organize Bethel Presbyterian Church in the 1830’s. Dr. Peter Constantine Hairston, a son of Hardin, was the local physician for the area and lived on what is now Nick Hairston Road.

          Dr. Jack Elliott, in his paper on the Black Prairie, states that once land was acquired, the buyer had to go and find it. They had to develop the land, remove trees although the Indians had been burning off the land every year. ___________ Nance, in R. R. Wyatt’s book, The Diary of a Little Man, gives an account of riding on horseback into this area and seeing vast stretches of grassland and realizing water was very hard to find. Johnson grass grew as high as a man on horseback fooling settlers into thinking water was plentiful. Little did they realize that Johnson grass sends out long tap roots reaching deep into the earth to find water. The settlers soon discovered wells had to be dug deep. The soil was beautiful and black, but the prairie mud in the winter was another thing to deal with. The mud and the lack of water made many settlers hesitant to move into this area. Many people owned plantations in the Prairie but chose to build houses in Columbus.

          For those early settlers who did choose to stay and develop the area, there was much work to be done. The houses that were built were very utilitarian since most of the attention was directed towards developing the land and attempting to realize an income from their hard labors. The houses, strictly functional, began as a dogtrot house with rooms on either side and a large hall down the middle. The first houses were made of logs with the logs hewn on both sides. Porches and more rooms were added later as the family grew.

          There were no gravel roads, but each land owner was obligated to put so many hours of labor into maintaining roads. Although Columbus was the county seat of Lowndes County as early as 1830, it was very difficult journey to get to Columbus. There was no Highway 45 as we know it today. What roads were available were almost impassable in the winter. The only road to Columbus was the Old Macon Road. The main transportation was the Tombigbee River.

          Therefore, a big concern was a global economy: how to produce crops and how to get crops to market. New England purchased cotton for their mills, but England also wanted the cotton. The government was changing from a territory to a county and a state government. Judge J. W. Carr, one of the earliest settlers was responsible for opening a better and faster market for crops by giving land for the right-of-way for the Mobile and Ohio Rail Road in 1857. This move also furthered the growth of the town of Crawford. An account of the trial of pioneer times is related by Judge Carr in The Autobiography of a Little Man.

                    “The first year was particularly hard because food was scarce. The only meat available was deer meat. After the opening of the rail road, he tells of many mornings of having seen as many as fifty deer lying around like so many calves on the knoll on which the town of Crawford now stands. The knoll was covered by a copse of dwarf post oak trees, and being a little higher than the surrounding grounds, the deer came there for a dry place to rest and for protection against wind and weather Jude Carr said he got tired of deer meat. “They baked it and they biled it, and stewed it, but I got so tired of it, I could not retain it on my stomach.”

            Life for the earlier settlers was very complicated and very hard. However, it is an instinct for people to want to gather to share and to worship. As early as 1823, a Methodist Church was established in Columbus. Methodism was being developed in the northeastern part of the state. In 1832 the Alabama conference was formed making Lowndes, Noxubee, and Monroe, east of the Tombigbee River, part of the conference. Population west of the river was sparse, but Bethel Presbyterian Church, east of Crawford, was established in the late 1830’s. A Presbyterian Church was also established at Mayhew, north of Crawford. There were no Methodist churches. Circuit Rider preachers were sent from the Alabama Conference to convert the settlers. The development of Methodism in Mississippi owes much to these brave men who rode horseback into these sparsely populated areas. They were at the mercy of the settlers for a place to say or for food to eat. Many time the Circuit Riders only came once a year and would hold revivals or protracted meetings.

          According to Olin Looney, who did extensive work on the development of Prairie Hill Church and Campgrounds and Shaeffer’s Chapel, the exact date of the Prairie Hill Methodist Episcopal Church South is not established. However, it is recorded in Deed Book 23, p. 207 there is an account of land being deeded from Mecageh McGee, executor of the estate of Thomas McGee to W. M. Kenner, Jesse Qualts, L. W. Ward, Wally Johnson, and General S. L. Kenner, trustees of the Prairie Hill Church dated August 5, 1847. We can assume from this deed that a church building was already on this land. Prairie Hill Church and Campground was located somewhere near Penn Station. People would gather in the summer for a week of revival preaching, prayer meetings, and socializing. Many times, this might be the only time people would see a minister.

          Early accounts from these meetings are drawn from letters or articles written by the Reverend George Shaeffer. From these letters, we learn of an interesting account of a camp meeting in 1839. These records indicate that the church or campground was established prior to 1839. The following is one of the Reverend George Shaffer’s letters on “Remarkable Conversions”:

                    In the year 1839, I traveled the Macon Circuit which then included Prairie Hill at which place had a gracious revival and about fifty conversions in all. One day during the progress of the meeting, two men, who had not attended the meeting before, came to the church. They were both quite wicked; and, on their way had been ridiculing the Christians and scoffing at religion.

                        During the preaching, they were both powerfully convicted and came to the altar when the penitents were invited forward. After an earnest struggle in prayer, they were both converted and went home rejoicing. Nothing was further from their thoughts than the idea of embracing religion at that time when they came to the House of God, but the power of god arrested them and they completely changed from scoffers in religion to men of prayer and faith.” George Shaffer added a footnote at the bottom of his account: ‘I had been making them a special subject of prayer.”

            George Shaffer relates another account of conversions and show the types of people the preachers were dealing with:

                    A remarkable case of conversion took place on the “Prairie Hill” circuit in the year of 1847, which is a striking instance of the direct agency and powers of the Holy Spirit in the awakening and conversion of sinners. A camp meeting was held at Prairie Hill in Lowndes County, Mississippi in the month of August. It commenced on Monday evening and closed the following Monday morning, and was much blessed; upwards of forty persons were converted. A certain individual resided near the meeting ground who was quite wicked. He was the head of a family, about forty years of age, and had never manifested any interest in religion.

                        He was very profane and a regular drinker of ardent spirits though he was not a drunkard. His associations were almost entirely wicked and he was one of the most unlikely subjects for conversion in the neighborhood, so much so that a young man remarked to some of his friends, who were urging the subject of religion. “When J. T. gets converted, I shall think there is some chance for me.” This man did not come to the meeting until Friday morning. He arrived about the close of the eight o’clock service and walked immediately up to the altar. When I first discovered him, he was standing upright near the stand. He told me he wished to go to the mourners’ bench, and I accompanied him to a seat in the altar. He then said, “I came to this place to get religion and I never intend to leave until I get it.” He remained at the altar all day earnestly engaged in prayer and religious conversation. About ten o’clock at night, he embraced Christ and was unspeakably blessed. He literally leaped for joy and seemed filled with astonishment that God could convert such a sinner as he was in one day. He afterwards informed me that he was convicted at home and then resolved to go to the camp meeting and embrace religion. There God convicted without any direct agency of the holy Spirit or human instrumentality, producing such a powerful conviction of sin and such clear perception of the importance and necessity of salvation as led him to the determination to secure it at all hazards.

                        The change wrought in him was thorough; he was truly a new creature. He never had a relish for ardent spirits after his conversion and he became eminently a man of faith and prayers; religion was his theme. He made a useful leader and has been a pattern of piety ever since.

            Dr. William Lowndes Lipscomb’s History of Columbus also mentions the Prairie Hill Campground. He was proud to call this campground his spiritual birth place in 1849.

                    Prairie Hill Campground, located near Penn Station Road, continue its annual meetings for a number of years. Very many of the early settlers built and occupied tents every year. This camp meeting was distinguished for the generous hospitality of its tenters, the large number of visitors reaching up in the thousand and its sweeping revivals of religion.

            An early map of Lowndes county shows a United Post Office at Prairie Hill in 1840. Two years later, around 1841, this post office was moved to Daley’s Crossroads just southwest of Crawford, the Richards house. John Daley, Sr. built, owned, and operated a stage coach inn known as Wayside Inn. This stage coach stop was significant to the area as it was connected to Robinson Road which ran to Jackson thus connecting this part of the state with the middle of the state. The house later passed into the Davis family then to the Rupert Richards family. Unfortunately, in around 2015 the house burned.

          Transportation was limited to horseback, stagecoach, and river travel. After 1857, railroad transportation was vital in bringing more people to the area. More people developed the need for a school that was organized by the Reverend Peter Crawford who also helped to establish a Baptist church in the town of Crawfordsville. From the History of Columbus by Dr. Lipscomb, “the village of Crawford was called after the Reverend Peter Crawford and was distinguished from its earliest history for the mortality and intelligence of its citizens. There were good schools and churches, and its stores were well furnished with large stocks of goods. It was incorporated, governed by a mayor and selectmen, made pleasant at all seasons, an altogether is one of the most delightful prairie villages in this section of the state.”

          Fortunately, there are copies of Quarterly Conference records dating back to April 8, 1843. At this meeting were the presiding elder, William Weir and Elisha Calloway, Pastor in charge. Others included Zepe Myze, Thad B. Hilburn, Charles Barrett, L. W. Baldwin, V. L. Brooks, and R. Steward. In 1846, among the following members present was an Isom Moorhead and J. W. Carr.

          Information gathered from the Quarterly Conference records reveals interesting information such as the names of stewards, ministers, and trustees. A report was always included about the amount of money given by each church for the quarter; the number of people received into the church or the number of people expelled; the status of the Sunday Schools; and the general morality of the churches. In 1843, the minister was Elisha Calloway. The expenses given were $746.00 for the minister. The fourth Quarterly Conference, held at Trinity on December 12, 1846, contained recognizable names Isom Moorhead and J. W. Carr. The number joining the church since the last Quarterly Conference were 14 whites with 2 whites being expelled. The number of coloreds received were 27. There was only one successful Sabbath school in operation. This conference not only included Prairie Hill but Prairie Point, Bunchs’ School house, Fairfield, Memphis, Lagrone, Trinity, Ebenezer, Sixteenth Section (later became Shaeffer’s Chapel), Concord, and Providence. The collection listed from Prairie Hill was $27.00. W. Weir received $55.00; W. Murrah, $20.00; and Baldin, $45.00.

          Since very little money was being received for the preachers, a meeting of the stewards was held in Macon, in 1847 for the purpose of assessing the amount each preacher should receive. The amount assessed for the preacher, R. Finley, was $995.00. The presiding elder was to receive $100.00. Each church in the Prairie Hill Circuit was responsible for a certain amount. Prairie Hill church was assessed $200.00.

          In July 1850, the Quarterly Conference met at Trinity Church. The mission work of the church during the 1850’s was to the coloreds. Wesley smith was appointed missionary to the coloreds. By now there were reported three Sabbath Schools “doing tolerably well.” The mission report was given stating there was to be a missionary collection appointed at each church in the circuit by the preacher in charge. For the Plymouth Mission report, five children were baptized and two adults; nine received on probation; three expelled; 125 children catechized. At this time, no money was raised for the mission.


 Methodist Church Parsonage - built about 1850


          A very important resolution came from this meeting. It was decided a parsonage would be built at Crawfordsville to provide a home for the preacher for all of these little churches that comprised the Prairie Hill Circuit. A building committee, Jesse Smith, H. D. Randle, and Mathew Mims, was appointed. T. Moody, the minister, was $203.45.

          In the May 18, 1852 meeting, it was moved and carried that a camp meeting committee be appointed for the purpose of locating a campground for the Prairie Hill Circuit. Protracted meetings or revivals were still being held each summer. Families would come and stay in tents for perhaps a week to have the opportunity to listen to preaching, to pray, and to visit with the other families.

          The 1854 Quarterly Conference met at Prairie Hill. P. A. Smith was the secretary. One of the questions asked was what is the state of the churches in this circuit? “They are all in good condition except Crawfordsville which is not as could be desired.” It was moved and seconded that the organization at Crawford still exist. From these records, we have surmised an approximate date for the parsonage in Crawford and have placed the date around the mid 1850’s. It is assumed that the first Methodist church was built in Crawford around the same time.

          The period from 1850 to 1860 was very good economically in Mississippi. Farmers were making more money on their cotton. Crawford was beginning to grow. Stores were being built. Schools were established. Houses were getting bigger with large front porches.

          The Quarterly Conference continued to meet all through the 1850’s. In 1859, there are records of a conference meeting on May 14, 1859. Three Sabbath Schools were also listed for the circuit. Three whites and two coloreds were received into church on probation. Fifteen whites and four coloreds were received in full conviction and five whites and twelve coloreds by certificates. Three were expelled. “Morally good” was the reply the minister made to the question, ‘what is the state of the church?” $85.00 was raised for Sabbath School. Crawfordsville contributed $ 101.53. the trustees listed for the Methodist church in Crawfordsville were J. M. Ledbetter and H. N. Lawrence.

          The third Quarterly Conference met at Artesia Methodist Church on August 13, 1859. The group resolved to purchase a house for a parsonage, not costing more than $2000.00 for the Prairie Hill Circuit during the “present Year”. Trustees for Prairie Hill were Joseph Toland, W. H. Cook, James Thompson. These trustees were invested with power to sell the land belonging to Prairie Hill Church and campground and dispose “said church house in the best way to assist in building a parsonage for the Circuit of Crawfordsville.” All the proceeds from the sale were to be applied toward the building of the parsonage. A resolution was passed the next year expressing gratitude for the “marked kindness” shown our pastor by Mr. N. E Hairston who allowed his carpenter to perform valuable work on the parsonage for more than two weeks.

          Storms of war were brewing throughout the South. All through the 1850’s into 1860 there were many arguments and disagreements between the South and the Northeast, mainly concerning the moving of slaves into newly opened western territories. The Civil War or the War Between the States began on April 1861 with the firing of the first shot at Fort Sumter, South Carolina. Crawford, anxious to become a part of this war, wasted no time getting involved in the war. The Prairie Guards, under the leadership of Watt Hairston, met under a large oak tree on the site of the former Baptist Church. From the book, The Prairie Guards by D. C. Love, the following account is given:

                    “The Prairie Guards, an infantry company, raised in and near Crawford, Mississippi, was among the first to offer its services to the state. It was composed of the flower of the manhood of section, handsomely uniformed and under the drilling of its Capitan, J. T. W. Hairston, a graduate of the Virginia Military Institute, soon learned to move with military precision. It at once became the pet of the ladies of the community who made a special flag for the troops.”

            The whole community turned out to see the Prairie Guards leave on the train for Corinth where they would go to Virginia, Tennessee, and Gettysburg. Among the women watching the train leave was Laura Ledbetter who waved goodbye to her husband, Cornelia Nance. He was later killed in the battle of Gettysburg. His cousin, Henry Tharp, was taken prisoner in this battle and was later sent back to Mississippi. He later married his cousin’s widow, Laura. Henry and Laura were the parents of Ela Tharp who married George Hairston.

          The officers listed in this infantry were J.T.W. Hairston, Captain; W. H. Gray, 1st Lieutenant; A. H. Ledbetter, 2nd Lieutenant; H. P. Halbert, 3rd Lieutenant; Thomas Carr, Ensign; and Ed Sanders, Orderly Sergeant. In 1862 and 1863 two more companies were formed. All the men in the church were gone. Even the minister signed up. Jack Ledbetter at the very young age of 15 signed up.

          Lying about his age so as to be admitted, Jack, with his older brother, A. H. Ledbetter, became a part of the Confederate Army. At the end of the war, he was taken prisoner near Vicksburg, but somehow, he escaped. The war ended in 1865; so, his father set out to find his son who had been a fat little boy when he left home. His father stopped anyone he could see to ask if they had seen his boy. Finally, he saw one bedraggled soldier trying to return to his home. This soldier recognized the name and told Mr. Ledbetter that he could find his son on the porch of an old black woman. He told him, ‘I don’t think he will live much longer, and he is certainly not a fat little boy.” Indeed, Jack was in terrible shape. He would lie on the porch and crawl down the steps to get a drink of water. The black woman told Mr. Ledbetter that this boy is probably your son. “Come look at him.” The father replied, “He does not look like the boy I last saw four years ago, but I am going to take him home to my wife and see if she thinks she is his mother. If not, we are going to keep him anyway.”

          In spite of the ongoing war, the fourth Quarterly Conference meeting for the Crawfordsville Circuit met at Crawfordsville on the twentieth of September 1862. The following members were present: George Shaeffer, presiding elder of the Tuscaloosa district, Pastor J. B. Stone, J. P. Gaines, M. Randle, S.D. Reed, and H. N. Lawrence who was appointed secretary. It was reported there were three Sabbath Schools, but that one was not very prosperous. Eight whites were received into the church on probation and 122 coloreds on probation. No one had been expelled. The state of the churches was reported as on a whole as being in a prosperous condition. The churches involved and amount of money each gave is as follow: Artesia, $107.00 Trinity, $100.00, Crawfordsville, $100.00, and Tibbee, $140.00. George Shaeffer, as the presiding elder, was paid $58.00, and J. B. Stone, the pastor, was paid $289.00. However, the war cast gloom over the church in 1861. The state of the church was reported as “cold, and the pastor has gone to war.”

          At this meeting was discussed a “considerable debt” incurred on the furniture at the Crawfordsville parsonage due to a Brother Hearon, a previous pastor. A motion was moved and carried that “if the debt were not paid or certain arrangements made to discharge said parsonage debt by the first of November next that the furniture be sold for cash to pay for itself.” The conference appointed a member from each church to attend the November meeting to “effect the above purpose.” H. N. Lawrence was appointed as a member from Crawfordsville.

          From a History of North Mississippi Methodism, 1820-1900 by Gene Ramsey Miller, in 1860 the Alabama Conference held a mission in Columbus. The Church of Crawfordsville was included in this conference. This history stated that Crawford had 121 whites and 101 coloreds until the Civil War (1861). “The Methodist Episcopal Church South confined its missionary activities principally to work among the Negro slaves,” as stated in this history. From the records of the church, William C. Hearn was listed as a pastor for 1861; J.B. Stone from 1862-1863; William E. Mabry, 1864; and John W. Harmon, 1865. Following the 1862 Quarterly Conference meeting, there are no records of any other meeting until 1885.

          Times were very hard when the war ended in April of 1865. The men, who were not killed, returned broken in spirit and economically. Many were injured and some never quite returned to normal. Their wives and daughters had to take up the slack while they were away. The slaves had been freed. So that the Confederacy would not be revived, Congress laid out a very strict reconstruction plan. Government in the South was in the hands of Carpetbag rule. Southerners, not happy with this kind of rule, took law into their own hands. It was a period of great uncertainty and unrest. There was practically no money to make a comeback such as to pay for seed, supplies, or labor to farm the crops. There is a story passed down in the Hairston family about the daughters in the family having rag dolls stuffed with cotton seeds. Since it was very difficult to obtain seed, these dolls were ripped apart. The seeds were removed and planted. However, the price of cotton was at an all-time low. Because Crawford was primarily a farming community, the store keepers found it hard to survive economically. No ministers were listed from 1870 to 1878 and again from 1881 to 1883.

          To make matters worse, the town of Crawford burned on August 17, 1883 according to an entrance in the diary of James Nance. Mr. Nance, the father of Margaret Hartman, was a bookkeeper for George W. Hairston, Sr. Mr. Nance kept a diary from 1860 until 1923. He made one entry a year. This one entry he made in 1873 is a primary source confirming a date of the town burning.

          The business part of Crawford consisted of all wood frame buildings and was located further west from the present location prior to the fire. By 1885, the town began to redevelop. New life was coming back into the town. Crawford was incorporated in 1885. New stores were relocated near the railroad on the eastern edge of town. Brick buildings replaced the wood frame buildings. Crigler, Hairston, Potts, Ervin, Richards, and Bragg were listed as merchants.

          In 1885, the Quarterly Conference for the Crawford Charge of the Columbus District resumed its meetings. The September 1885 meeting was held at Artesia. T. M. Dye was the pastor in charge. J. M. Ledbetter was listed as a steward. A question always asked at these meetings was, “Have the local preachers and exhorters passed an examination of character and have their licenses been renewed?” The character of J. P. Gaines, the minister in question, was passed. Again, mention is made that the preacher in charge was instructed to dispose of the Prairie Hill church property and “proceeds of said sale applied to the property of Crawford.”

          In October of 1885, the Crawford Charge of the Columbus District met at Shaeffer’s Chapel. Total members listed were 304. Additions to the membership in the churches by profession of faith were five, by certificate, four. The number of churches included in the charge were four. The value of the churches was listed as $3500.00 the one parsonage was listed at Crawford and was valued at $1500.00. The money expended for churches and parsonage was $100.00. The preacher in charge was paid $660.00, $30.00 above what was asked. For the first time, a bishop is listed. He was sent the amount of $15.00. Foreign missions were given $147.00; domestic missions, $35.00; education, $18.00; and the Bible Society, $10.25. The number of Sunday Schools was four. (Sabbath schools were now changed to Sunday schools.) the number of officers and teachers were 25, almost 6 teachers per church. The number of scholars was 210. The amount collected was $29.00, and the amount for Children’s Day was $4.28.

          The Crawford Charge comprised the four churches of Crawford, Artesia, Trinity, and Shaeffer’s Chapel. In 1885, the Sunday School superintendent was R. M. Smith. Crawford was a part of the Columbus District Mississippi Conference no longer a part of the Alabama conference. Among the stewards listed representing Crawford were J. M. Ledbetter, G. P. Waller, B. Crigler, and R. M. Smith. In 1886, the Quarterly Conference listed J. M. Archer as Sunday School Superintendent. He was listed again in the same position in the 1887 conference. In 1888, R. M. Smith was the Sunday School Superintendent.

          The Quarterly Conference convening in October 1888 was held at Artesia with the Reverend J B. Malone as the pastor in charge. His report is very interesting and more detailed than most.

          “Taken as a whole, the Circuit is thought to be in better condition than for the two years just past. There was a most wonderful revival at Trinity in August, at which every individual who attended the meeting regularly was converted, save one and only six left in the back of the church. A protracted service at Crawford left part of the church with quickened energy and greater desires and determination; the same be said of Artesia. I do not regard the year as a failure. God has blessed us, and the outcome will be to His glory.”

            The October 3, 1891 meeting was held at Artesia. The asking salary listed for the pastor was $800.00 but he was paid $673.75. the bishop was sent $21.00. The asking for foreign missions was $143.00 but was paid $100.00. Asking for domestic missions was $43.00 but was paid $20.00. Crawford raised $42.50 for support of the ministry.

          The report of the Sunday Schools at this October meeting included the following: “four Sunday Schools in good working order with a competent corps of teachers using our own literature and accomplishing good for the church. A large percent of our children belongs to the church and seem to be interested. The pastoral instruction of the children is the best we can. We try to cultivate the character as religiously as circumstances will justify. K. A. Jones was the pastor in charge.”

          The Reverend Jones related the following account of the spiritual state of the church.

          “The spiritual condition of the church has improved very much since last quarter. We have had protracted services at the four appointments since the last Quarterly Conference with very gratifying results. The great work was not in receiving additions to the church but in stirring the church members to a higher spiritual life. Many who have been in the background for some time were reclaimed, new resolutions were formed and new desires aroused. Some were awakened to testify to the saving power of religion. Five have been received into the church sine last quarter.”

            The 1892 Quarterly Conference listed W. A. Hartman as church secretary. In 1894, he was listed as a steward at the Quarterly Conference. In 1895, A. J. Ervin was listed as a steward along with J. P. Waller and W. C. Lawrence.

          There are no conference records from 1896 until 1916. A possible reason for the lack of these conference meetings could be due to the fact that heavy rains caused loss of crops. This loss left the church in bad straits in the early 90’s. Many of the members moved away, but it was apparently reconciled and was growing again at the turn of the century. A register of the members of the Crawford Church included the following families: Smith, Lawrence, Hartman, Ervin, Ledbetter, Carr, Hairston, Potts, Wilkins, Waller, Woodfin, Gould, Thompson, Lester, Pearce, Shackleford, Hubbard, Lumpkin, Scales, Winningham, Jackson, Stanley, Ritter, Hinkle, Kemp, Flournoy, DeLoach, Miley, Wood, York, Cunningham, Babb, Pearce, and Gentry. No date is given on this register, but the date is assumed to be in the earliest part of the twentieth century, possibly around 1905-1910.

          A very significant report comes out of these minutes. The first church in Crawford was built sometime in the 1850’s and burned around 1911. In 1916, the church is being rebuilt. The Reverend D. W. Babb, the pastor in charge, reported that the church is “complete except a little minor work, the cost of which will be small. It is painted inside and out. Seated with circular pews with mahogany finish. Three additional Sunday school rooms were finished and a good light plant installed and two good stoves They all were paid for and the church had one of the best bells in the county put in by Captain A. J. Ervin in memory of his “sainted wife.”


Crawford Methodist Church

Crawford Methodist Church - built in 1916 - destroyed by fire 1956


          The 1917 Trustees for the charge from Crawford are J. M. Ledbetter, A. J. Ervin, Jr., W. A. Hartman, G. P. Waller, and Henry Hartman. J. M. Ledbetter was the Sunday School Superintendent.

          Meanwhile, the United States entered World War I in 1917. The Armistice was signed on November 11, 1918. There must have been members of the church who were engaged in fighting in this war, but no mention is made in the church records.

          1918 was also the outset of the Influenza Epidemic which spread like wildfire all over the United States. It was so prominent that the Reverend D. Dabb made note of it in the October 30, 1918 Quarterly conference held at Shaeffer’s chapel. He stated, “We have two Sunday Schools fairly well attended until the Epidemic struck our charge. Since then we have done but little. Our attendance on the preaching of the Word had been very good until the late sickness referred to above. We have two appointments to preach to the children, both of them disappointed because of sickness.”

          The 1920 report lists J. M. Ledbetter as Sunday School Superintendent. Stewards were J. M. Ledbetter, A. J. Ervin, Jr. G. P. Waller, Henry Hartman, and W. A. Hartman. There was still no Epworth League in 1920. There were still two Sunday Schools. W. I. White, pastor in charge, reported, “There is a live interest manifested in the work both at Crawford and at Shaeffer’s Chapel. Crawford Church and Sunday School sent $15.66 to the orphanage in Jackson. The following from the Crawford Church were received into the church: Mamie DeVane Ledbetter, Jimmy Lou McGahey, Sarah Henkle, Laura Cunningham, Bert Ervin, and Peter Hairston. A woman’s missionary society was formed in Crawford. “Even though the members were few in number, the little society remains alive,” according to the pastor.

          In 1925, a Crawford and Mayhew Charge was formed J. B. Randolph was the presiding elder. G. H. Boyles was the pastor in charge. H. P. Hartman was the secretary. The stewards listed from Crawford were H. P. Hartman, N. O. Scales, J. M. Ledbetter, M. C. Pegues, Dr. t. W. Frazier, and G. W. Hairston, Jr.

          In 1928, Crawford was still in the Crawford, Mayhew Charge. W. M. Langley was the pastor in charge. The stewards were J. M. Ledbetter, J. P. Hartman, M. C. Pegues, W. H. Nichols, Dr. T. W. Frazier. The Trustees were A. J. Ervin, Jr. and G P. Waller. The Sunday School Superintendent was J. M. Ledbetter. The annual committee listed were the missionary committee with Mrs. M. C. Pegues, Mrs. L. C. Gibson, Mrs. J. W. York, and Mrs. G. P. Waller as members. Stewardship was in the hands of A J. Ervin, Jr. J. M. Ledbetter, Mattie Carr, and Mrs. Pegues.

          1928 is the last of the Conference records.


 Crawford Methodist Church - built in 1959



  Timeline Summary Page


1817            Mississippi becomes a state

1823            Methodist Church established in Columbus

1832            Signing of the Treaty of Dancing Rabbit Creek

1847            Land deeded for the Prairie Hill Methodist Episcopal Church near Penn Station

1850            Decision made to build a parsonage for the Prairie Hill circuit in Crawford

Mid 1850’s    Methodist church built in Crawford

1857            Mobile and Ohio Railroad completed

1859            Decision made to sell the building and property of the Prairie Hill, Church to invest money in the Crawford church and parsonage

1861            Beginning of Civil War between the states

1883            Store buildings of Crawford burn

1885            Crawford is incorporated as a city

1911            Original Crawford Methodist church burns

1911-1916   Church members meet in nearby Christian Church

1916            Second Crawford Methodist church is completed

1918            Influenza epidemic

1956            Second Methodist church burns in Crawford

1959            Third Methodist Church is rebuilt in Crawford


List of Pastors

Prairie Hill Circuit to Crawford Methodist Church


1843                Elisha Callaway

1844                George Shaeffer

1845                William Murrah

1846                John Baldwin

1847                Robert S. Finley

1848                J. Foxworth

1848                Elisha Callaway

1849                William Leigh

1850                Theophilus Moody

1851                William Weir

1852                L. Masingale

1853                James A. Clemment

1854                L. Masingale

1855                A. J. Coleman

1856                Landon T. Schooler

1856                M Grayham

1857-1858       Silas H. Cox

1859                John Toland

1860                James A. Peoples

1861                William C. Hearn

1862-1863       J. B. Stone

1864                William E Mabry

1865                John W. Harmon

1867-1868       Leroy Massengale

1869                James A. Peoples

No ministers are listed from 1870-1877

1878-1879       S. M. Thames

1880                J. T. Armstrong

No ministers are listed from 1881-1883

1884                H. A. Tucker

1885                T. W. Dye

1885                T. B. Malone

1886                T. W. Dye

1888-1890       T. B. Malone

1891-1893       Kenneth A. Jones

1895                N. G. Augustus

1896-1897       J. H. Shumaker

1898                Thomas Cameron

1899-1900       P. E. Duncan

1901                Evans

1902                T. D. Borders

1903                J. A. Oats

1905-1909       D. W. Babb

1910                W. J. Lester

1911-1914       J. Mark Guin

1915-1918       D. W. Dabb

1919-1920       W. I. White

1920-1921       Thomas H. Mills

1921                R. G. A. Carlisle

1922-1924       G. W. Avery


1926                G. H. Bagles



1929-1931       W. M. Langley




1935                       Hemphill

1936-1937       William I. Hester

1938-1939       A. N. Maxey



1942                T. E. Shelton

1943                L. M. Wright

1944-1945       J. L. McElroy

1945-1948       J. T. Humphreys

1949-1950       C. R. Hollis

1951-1952       Sam J. Hull

1953                C. W. Arnette

1954-1956       E. C. Johnson

1957-1961       Dr. L. P. Wasson

1962                Tom McAllister

1963-1964       Jesse Sowell

1965                B. F. Barrentine

1966-1967       J. J. Tant

1968-1969       Gus Shelley

1970                Rush Miller

1971                Charles Simmons

1972-1974       C. M. (Buddy) Smith

1975                Mike Childs

1976                Phil Estes

1977-1978       Ray Branch

1979                James Califf

1980                Melvin Hollingsworth

1980-1981       Walt Porter

1981-1983       Paul Young

1984-1989       Ben Lewis

1990-1992       Walt Porter

1992-1995       John Kottenerook

1995-2000       Dale Green

2000-2003       Greg Bufkin

2003-2014       Buddy Carroll

2014-               Kathy Brackett


Register of Crawford Methodist Church

Early Twentieth Century


Mrs. Amelia Archer
Mrs. M E. Babb
Mrs. Mattie E. Babb
Dr. R. A. Bailey
Dr. Bledsoe
Lula Bell Bledsoe
Miss Josephine Broyles
Miss Annie Broyles
Dr. Broyles
Abbie Broyles
N. S Carr
Bailey Carr
Mattie S. Carr
Mrs. Lucy E. Coleman
C. D. Cunningham
Miss Catherine Cunningham
Mary DeLoach
Mrs. W. F. DeLoach
Miss Elmore
R. H. Elmore
A. J. Ervin
Mrs. Hetty Ervin
Frank Ervin
William E. Ervin
E. D. Ervin
Wade M. Ervin
Artemus Jennings Ervin, Jr.
William Kennedy Ervin
Edwin Moore Ervin
Laura Flournoy
Miss Regina Flournoy
Mrs. D. Flournoy
N. L. Gaines
Eunice Gentry
Irene Gilmer
Miss Elizabeth Gilmore
Elizabeth Gilmore
Miss Willie Gould
Lawrence Gould
John Townes Hairston
Mrs. Laura Hairston
Lillie R. Hairston
P. C. Hairston
John Wesley Hairston
Peter C. (Doc) Hairston
Laura May Hairston
Nick Hairston
George Hairston
Mrs. Corrine Hairston
W. A. Hartman
S. C. Hartman
Mrs. Leon Hartman
Mary Eliza Hartman
Jack Hartman
William Hartman
Dock C. Hartman
Laura Hartman
Henry Hartman
Robert Hewlett
F. A. Hewlett
Norma Hewlett
Ora Hewlett
Miss May Elizabeth Hinkle
Mrs. C. O. Hinkle
Murray Hinkle
Mrs. J. K. Hinkle
Mrs. J. O. Hinkle
Houston Hinkle
Addie Hinkle
Elbert Hinkle
Miss Lillie May Hinkle
Henry Hinkle
C. Hubbard
Mrs. A. C. Hubbard
Miss Ollie Hubbard
Eulalie Hubbard
J. L. Jackson
Mra. J. L. Jackson
Mrs. Marion Jackson
Mrs. Jeffries
P. B. Johnson
Dr. R. C. Jones
Emma Kemp
Sallie Kemp
Edna Kemp
Louis Kemp
J. Kemp
Mrs. R. S. C. Kemp
M. B. Kemp
Jeannette Kemp
Walter Kemp
Sarah Spaulding Kemp
W. C. Lawrence
L. D. Ledbetter
J. M. Ledbetter
Mrs. Maggie Ledbetter
Walter D. Ledbetter
Miss Lillie Elaine Ledbetter
Gray W. Ledbetter
Mrs. Maggie Lou Ledbetter
Mattie Ledbetter
Mattie Bell Ledbetter
Shep Ledbetter
J. M. Ledbetter
Lucille Ledbetter
Miss Maggie Lou Ledbetter
Mrs. W. C. Lester
Daisy Lester
William Lester
J. W. Lester
W. C. Lester
Ella P. Lester
H. P. Lester
J. P. Lester
J. L. Lumpkin
Mrs. J. L. Lumpkin
Mrs. Sallie Martin
Dr. D. D. Mattox
Mary Alma McGee
J. Cleve McGee
Mrs. Thomas Miller
Mattie Moss
Mrs. Moss
W. S. Pearce
Mrs. Pearce
Miss Willie Potts
Miss Mattie Potts
Stanton Ritter
Mr. Sam Scales
Miss Lucy Scales
Birney Scales
J. G. Shackelford
Mrs. J. G. Shackelford
Mrs. Sallie Sharp
Hunter Sharp
Earl R. Smith
William Lee Smith
Lee B. Smith
Mrs. S. A. Smith
Mrs. Archie Smith
M. Jeff Smith
W. S. Stanley
Mrs. W. S. Stanley
Mrs. Cy Thompson
C. C. Thompson
James Thompson
Fred Waller
Annie Belle Waller
Mrs. Vernon Waller
Mary Alice Waller
G. P. Waller
Mrs. Augusta Waller
Vernon Stuart Waller
George Waller, Jr.
Mary Smith Waller
James Ford Waller
Catherine Waller
Mrs. Emma W. Wilkins
Miss Bessie Wilkins
Charles Smith Wilkins
E. D. Winningham
Mrs. E. D. Winningham
Miss Sue Winningham
Mrs. Woodfin
Thomas C. Woodfin
Susie Irene Woodfin
H. L. Word
Mrs. H. L. Word
J. W. York
Mrs. Hessie York
Willie York
Hallie York
Louise York
Mary York